Book Club Roles

18 Mar

In my last post I referenced the roles that Jenny and I created for our introductory unit for book clubs.  They were an experiment, to see if more formal roles would help students to learn how to work and talk together in groups.  I think, overall, they’ve done their job.  We created four roles: fantastic facilitator, curious questioner, materials manager, airtime avenger.  Yes, yes we do love alliteration.

Our third book club lesson taught students how to use these roles.  We videotaped our model book club group doing this roles (four, 1-minute clips of each person demonstrating their role) and then showed them to the class.

We also created role cards, which had the job description and sentence frames, that students could place in front of them during discussions.

photo 1Finally, we had a grid with each book club’s participants written in columns.  The roles were in the left-hand column, and we could rotate the roles so that everyone in the group experienced each job.

photo 4Most of the roles deal with how to improve the conversation.  The facilitator keeps everyone on task, the questioner extends the discussion, the avenger makes sure everyone participates.  This keeps our focus on what’s really important in book clubs, which is using the conversation to deepen our understanding of the text.  Within the roles, we also tucked in some other habits we want students to create, such as referencing the text, using examples, and extending an idea.

Possible Pitfalls

The students love to use the role cards.  Initially, students used them indiscriminately.  Every time someone said something, they all grabbed their role card and tried out a sentence frame.  The facilitator told everyone to get back on topic even when they were all on topic.  The questioner asked someone to say more…again, and and again, and again.  It was very amusing for one lesson, but of course not the point.  We had a whole class conversation after the first time using the roles, and talked about using the purposefully and strategically.  After that, except for one group that I needed to talk to privately, they began to use them appropriately.  It’s a work in progress, for sure.

We’re on our 5th lesson with the roles, and they are becoming increasingly natural.  The ultimate goal is to be able to get rid of roles altogether, and have students internalize these questions and routines.

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